WASHINGTON, April 19, 2015 – As the 2016 presidential contest heats up and candidates seek to define themselves on the issues, four national groups are laying out a progressive agenda that can energize everyday voters. Instead of tinkering around the edges and playing it safe, the 12-point agenda focuses on bold solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face.
“We need a renaissance of civic engagement, but it’s got to be on a righteous platform, like this one,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05). “I hereby endorse this platform.”
“Politicians can see the light when they feel the heat, and we can bring the heat,” Ellison said.
The agenda was unveiled by National People’s Action, Campaign for America’s Future, Alliance for a Just Society, and USAction. These four national organizations have on the ground operations in 32 states, including key primary and swing states such as Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia. With more than 2 million members, these organizations plan to bring the agenda back home to define the debate for candidates running for the presidency to the local school board. Working America and the Working Families Party are the first of many organizations to endorse the agenda.
The agenda focuses on specific solutions to three key crises affecting everyday people today: racism and growing inequality, an embattled democracy, and a planet in peril.
While wages for the vast majority have flat-lined, the wealthy are reaping the benefits of the so-called recovery. Instead of moving towards racial equality, civil rights are being eroded as communities of color face chronic disinvestment, a growing wealth gap, mass incarceration, and police brutality. “We in this room know that inequality is not about numbers and charts. It’s about people. And the unfairness and inequality we see today disappears people. It strips us of our dignity. And that is not acceptable,” said Toby Chow, a seminarian and leader with Illinois Indiana Regional Organizing Network (IIRON). “That’s why we’re standing up, not standing by.”
“While the 1% agenda calls for corporate tax breaks and loopholes, our agenda calls for corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share, so we can invest in people and the planet,” said Eugene Lim, a leader with ONE Northside, in Chicago, IL.
With big money already flooding into the 2016 primaries and an epidemic of voter ID laws eroding the historic Voting Rights Act, our democracy is under attack.
“We have to fight the Fergusoning of America, folks,” Ellison said. “There is well-organized, well-financed group of people who are systematically trying to exclude people from the vote. … So my question to you is this: If there are people systematically putting their money and their means to stop your voice, to have a Ferguson in every inch of the United States of America, why are we not putting together our means, money and resources to have a renaissance of democracy and civic engagement and get people – working people – participating in their government all over this country. This is what we must do.”
Climate change is already threatening the lives of everyday people around the world. From Hurricane Sandy to a record drought in California, candidates can’t afford to ignore the overwhelming impact climate change is having on our communities. “Dirty coal, big oil, rich utility companies and factory farms are lined up against us, denying that there’s a climate crisis. They are maximizing profits while the places we live are plundered,” said Barb Kalbach a cardiac nurse and fourth-generation family farmer from Dexter, Iowa.
“A few years ago, a group — a scrappy group — of folks and I, we got together and we said, you know what, we got to make polluters pay. And, you know what, we got to make sure that money comes back to our town,” said Vien Troung of the Greenlining Institute. After winning in California, Troung said, “We’re not waiting for D.C. to change. We’re waiting for them to catch up to us.”
“There is a New Populism emerging in America – but for it to succeed it has to be equally committed to equality in terms of class, race and gender. Everybody in, nobody out!” said George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action.
“We are not talking about redecorating. We’re talking about taking over and rebuilding the thing from the bottom up,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “That means challenging organized money with mobilized people, cleaning out the stables and taking our democracy back.”
Borosage said that the last time the country faced a similar crisis during its first Gilded Age, “farmers and farmworkers and laborers and small business people gathered together and they build the populist movement.” He said we can learn from that movement’s successes in making people’s lives better – and we can also learn from the racial schisms that divided that movement, “and turn to each other and not on each other.”